Expat United Kingdom

The UK’s official name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and this popular location for expats covers many regions including England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. For many American expats, the United Kingdom is perhaps the best location to start their journey into Europe and life as an expat. While life in the UK is very different than the US, it still has plenty of similarities such as a similar language and familiar conventions, making it a very comfortable place to live and work.

For expats looking for the old world, you will be extremely pleased with the United Kingdom. Much of the United Kingdom shows its age and is well preserved. The UK is full of tradition, pomp and circumstance. Whether you decide to live in the London area, a small town in Britain, venture to the hills of Scotland, skip over to Ireland or enjoy Wales, you will find the United Kingdom to be fascinating at every turn.


The United Kingdom’s climate can vary depending on region. England, which is part of Britain has a temperate climate and has plenty of rainfall that falls year round. The rain comes from the Atlantic Ocean from the southwest, making the southwest part of England the wettest and the eastern part of England much drier. The temperatures in England can get quite cold, but usually stay above freezing during the winter months. In the summer time, expect mild temperatures with top temperatures in the 80’s, however most of the time the sky is overcast so temperatures will be much more milder only rising into the high 70’s during the summer months.

The climate in Wales which is to the northwest of London is quite similar to England. Expect lots of rain, a temperate climate and mild summers.

Scotland is to the north of Britain and the climate is classified as temperate and oceanic. Because of the large bodies of water surrounding Scotland, the weather tends to change quite frequently. Scotland is similar in latitude as colder climates including Oslo, Norway, but due to the warm air brought up by the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean, temperatures are far milder. While temperatures can be colder than the rest of the United Kingdom, it is only a slight difference of a few degrees. For the warmest part of Scotland, choose the western side which receives the full affect of the warm Gulf Stream air, the cooler side is to the east. It should be noted that Scotland is more prone to snow during the winter months and certain areas can have heavy snowfall. Because Scotland has a mountainous region, expect snow at higher altitudes.

Northern Ireland is considered to have a maritime climate which can be quite wet. Depending on the region of Ireland you are located in will determine the amount of rainfall. The west part of Ireland receives much more precipitation than the east part. Cloud cover is usually seen each day and because there is not that much direct sun, the temperatures tend to be a little cooler than the rest of the UK.


The government of the United Kingdom is classified as a constitutional monarchy. There is a parliamentary system in place where the executive power is held by the prime minister and other ministers of the cabinet.

The United Kingdom does not have a written constitution such as the US; it instead relies upon constitutional rulings handed down over the years and on traditional customs to govern. While there is no written constitution, the government of the UK is extremely stable and strong. The UK was a powerhouse during the 1800’s and ruled over 25% of the land and people of the world. While today, it no longer has control over such a wide range of territory or population, it still continues to be an economic powerhouse with the world’s 5th largest economy and still continues to have political clout as well as clout in numerous other areas.

For Americans looking to live in the UK as an expat the process is fairly straightforward and simple. The UK has been our main ally and trading partner for generations and there is plenty of good will among both Americans and the British people. The UK allows Americans to stay within her borders without a visa for up to 6 months. This is twice the amount of most visas for other European countries.

For those that are looking to work in the UK, finding a job is perhaps the easiest of all the countries due to the many US and British companies that have set up shop on both sides of the Atlantic. Many expats also enjoy their first taste of the UK through university and college exchange programs. It is fairly easy to visit the UK for a semester and many students enjoy it so much they decide to stay longer.

You can find out more information about visa requirements for the UK at the British Embassy in the USA. You can also contact the United States Embassy in London.

Tax System

The United Kingdom is known for having notoriously high taxes. Tax rates are usually higher than many other European countries. The individual income tax rate can go as high as 40 percent and corporate taxes are high as well, with the top rate at 30 percent. Besides income taxes, there are a host of other taxes including the value added tax (VAT), a vehicle tax, and a tax on insurance contracts.

Medical Care

Medical care in the UK is rated as being one of the best in the world. In the UK, you should find many first rate medical facilities with extremely well trained doctors and health care professionals as are found in the United States. Whether you are in the Britain, Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland, medical facilities are all extremely reliable and easy to access. However, since the UK is on the pound, healthcare costs can be far more expensive than in the US.

For residents of the UK, there is the NHS (National Healthcare Service) which is a type of universal health care. Usually the cost of healthcare is paid by taxes and for many health treatments the cost is free at point of service. While there is private medical insurance, it is mainly used by only a few for supplemental insurance for a few extra services. For the vast majority of Britain’s, the NHS is more than adequate for their health needs.

If you are working for a company in the UK or are an entrepreneur paying taxes in the UK, you can easily request coverage under the NHS. For those expats that are classified as tourists, your best bet for medical coverage is to purchase international medical insurance or travelers insurance that have a medical care component.

Real Estate

Purchasing real estate or investing in real estate in the UK is extremely straightforward and simple for US citizens; however it should be noted that because of the British Pound, the prices that you may pay in certain parts of the UK are astronomical. For instance, London has the reputation of being one of the most expensive cities in the world and buying a studio apartment can cost as much as $250,000 in US dollars.

For those looking to purchase real estate in the country side or in smaller towns and cities throughout the UK, prices are moderate at best. Unfortunately the US dollar is weak at the moment and the British Pound is about 2 to1 against the US dollar.

Renting an apartment is far more easier for those with a smaller budget, but be aware that prices are very expensive as well when living in major cities and especially London. It should also be noted that many apartments might not have been renovated for decades, which means you won’t find many modern amenities as those in the states.

For expats on a very small budget, your best bet is to find a few friends to share an apartment with. The cost can still be high about $400 to $500 per month, but at least it will let you enjoy all the wonders of the UK.


One of the advantages of living in the UK is the wealth of shopping available. Whether you live in the big cities or near the country side, finding necessities, as well as the luxuries are never that far away. The UK has had a thriving economy for centuries and has an excellent infrastructure making the trade of goods extremely easy. No matter what you are looking for you can find it easily.

As far as entertainment goes, there are plenty of pubs restaurants, cafes, night clubs etc throughout the UK. If you are lucky enough to live in the main cities such as London, nightlife and entertainment are extremely easy to find. Even in smaller towns there are cozy pubs and plenty of restaurants for any expat.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in the UK is very high. If you are living in London, expect one of the highest costs of living in the world. Real estate prices are just the start, but the strong British Pound makes it difficult for many expats living on a savings to afford the UK for long periods of time. For those expats that are working, it is much easier to live in the UK. Generally wages are very high and services such as medical care are taken care of by the government via taxes. For the last few years, the British Pound has been about 2 to 1 against the weaker US Dollar.

Map of United Kingdom